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Why I Now Think Star Trek IV is the WORST Star Trek Film 
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Hear me out...

This is the highest grossing film in the Star Trek franchise and is often considered the most popular, next to Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. In this movie, an alien probe starts causing devastation and chaos on the Earth when it arrives, looking for humpback whales which are extinct in the 23rd Century. Kirk and his crew are able to save the day by going back in time to 1986 and bringing a breeding pair of whales into their time, thus convincing the alien probe to stop what it's doing and leave.

There's a lot about the film to like, and being set in 1986 San Fransisco instead of an alien planet or spending the entire story aboard a starship made the film accessible to a wider audience than would normally be interested in a Star Trek movie.

To be honest, I don't think this movie was particularly interesting. It was funny and enjoyable to watch in the way any comedy film is fun to watch, but at the end of the day it wasn't a thoughtful social commentary, it was a propaganda piece.

Here's what I mean...

The message of the film is made crystal clear: Whaling is bad, especially when the whales being hunted are endangered, such as with humpback whales. All of the moral, credible characters in the movie have lines condemning the practice and it's one sided in that any alternate view is given absolutely no voice at all, with whalers only appearing onscreen to add tension to the climax of the film and to give the audience the warm fuzzies of seeing them terrified when the Bounty decloaks directly above their vessel.

Now don't get me wrong... I agree completely that hunting endangered species is morally wrong and should not happen, but that's part of the problem. The movie knows that its audience already agrees with the premise, so it makes no effort to delve into just why it's bad to hunt endangered whales. It's as if the point of the movie is to make audiences feel good for sharing that view, and serves as validation and a pat on the back. You know you're a good person. See? Captain Kirk agrees with you! So does Spock, who points out how illogical it is to hunt a species to extinction. To round out the chorus of voices preaching the message we have a contemporary of the audience: Dr. Gllian Taylor, marine biologist and expert on humpback whales.

I'm not saying that the movie could credibly have included a perspective representing the idea that hunting endangered whales is a good thing. What would have been more interesting is a chance to see a glimpse of the lives of the whalers themselves, and why they do as they do. Not so that we would necessarily support their work them, but so that we could at least understand them.

What I mean by that is that whalers are not evil mustache twirling villains who wake up in the morning to a steaming mug of whale tears and laugh maniacally as they imagine a future in which all whales are dead and they can move on to hunting baby seals. No doubt the ones who break laws by doing it believe that they're only doing what they have to in order to make a living and feed their families. Maybe they don't think they have any other choice. Maybe they believe strongly in a family tradition and are unwilling to change. Maybe they live in a country where the government does not cooperate with international laws prohibiting whaling and just don't see what the problem with it is.
My point is that there's an alternate perspective, however unpopular it may be, and to show that perspective would challenge the audience.

Would it change the minds of moviegoers about the morality of whaling? No, nor should it, but what it might do is show that the issue isn't black and white, and that if we really want to end the practice of whaling once and for all, the needs and concerns of whalers and the cultures they come from need to be understood and addressed or it will just keep happening. There are no cloaked Klingon ships in real life to scare them back to port.

Sadly, it does none of those things. Whalers are actually vilified more in the movie's dialogue than the planet killing alien probe itself. The movie is actually so lazy in setting up its own premise that it doesn't even give much of a reason why the loss of humpback whales is bad for the planet. As far as we can tell, the Earth of the 23rd Century was just fine without them, and it took a completely featureless, completely unknown alien probe to show up and start destroying the Earth just because there were no humpback whales on it.

I'm not kidding, that's the actual premise of the film.

Honestly, that may well be the worst part for me. There were so many more interesting ways to show the impact of a species going extinct on the planet's ecosystem. Maybe once the ecology of sea life is disrupted it starts a chain reaction over the next couple of centuries that culminates in mass extinctions in Earth's oceans. Maybe a premise similar to the film Medicine Man, in which a particular species of ant carries a trait that can be used to cure cancer in humans, but is being eradicated due to deforestation in the Amazon region. Instead, the writers just fell back on the sci-fi setting and came up with a completely boring, featureless black cylinder that's utterly invulnerable to attack because, conveniently, it drains power from any starship or starbase in the vicinity. When the probe arrives does it land in the sea to search for whales? Nope. It just sits in orbit and deploys some sort of blue marble device that apparently not only transmits whale song through space, (then the atmosphere, then the sea,) but it also starts to completely vaporize the Earth's oceans. The motive for this behavior isn't ever explained. Is it throwing a tantrum that there are no humpback whales? Is it taking revenge? Is it somehow doing this to get hidden whales to respond? We don't know. The motivation of this villain is never made at all clear. All we know about it is that it will wipe out all life on Earth because there are no humpback whales on it.

And when Kirk and crew come back with whales brought forward from the past, the whales start singing. The probe, now satisfied, flies away and is never mentioned in Star Trek canon again. The most significant event in the movie to the overall Star Trek canon is the introduction of the Enterprise-A, which takes place in the last two minutes of the film. The alien probe is never explained, the fate of Dr. Taylor is never explained (beyond being assigned to a science vessel., which makes absolutely no sense at all since the whole reason she came forward into the future was to be with the whales... But whatever. I guess everyone who's anyone in the 23rd Century lives and works on a starship.) the fate of the whales is never explained. None of those things matter at all.

So ultimately, Star Trek IV is a pat on the head to all of those in the audience who agree that hunting endangered whales is bad, and nothing more. Star Trek is at its best when it explores themes and social commentary in a way that's challenging and makes us think about things from a new point of view. Star Trek IV does not do this. It's a propaganda poster. It tells us what we already know and makes no effort at all to provide a new way of looking at anything.

Sure it was a funny movie and is enjoyable for that, but it isn't a Star Trek movie.

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Mon Jun 04, 2018 4:29 pm
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Quote:
Star Trek is at its best when it explores themes and social commentary in a way that's challenging and makes us think about things from a new point of view.


I'm not entirely sure any of the films capture this, as most have flimsy themes and messages. This is more of what the TV shows accomplished.

Quote:
Star Trek IV is the WORST Star Trek Film


I'm not really sure if I can agree with this, given just how poorly Star Trek 5, Insurrection, The Motion Picture, Star Trek 2009, and Nemesis are comparatively.

Also in doing some basic research on this film, Paramount pretty much had to make whatever demands Nimoy requested to bring him back on as Director, and he specifically wanted a film with no space battles and no big major bad guy, and the final draft of the film was penned by everyone's favorite Trek Writer, Nicholas Meyer.

Quote:
The message of the film is made crystal clear: Whaling is bad, especially when the whales being hunted are endangered, such as with humpback whales. All of the moral, credible characters in the movie have lines condemning the practice and it's one sided in that any alternate view is given absolutely no voice at all, with whalers only appearing onscreen to add tension to the climax of the film and to give the audience the warm fuzzies of seeing them terrified when the Bounty decloaks directly above their vessel.


2 Points here:

1. Did you consider that you, an educated American might not be the target for this message? Harmful fishing practices are still occurring in various places around the world, and the world back then still looked upon the wisdom of Star Trek as a passive way to deliver important morals.

2. As recently as 1988, Humpback Whales were pretty high on the endangered species list, and today their population is at the level of 'least concern', so if the silly propaganda movie about a Bird of Prey time traveling managed to save one species in real life... I think you have to recognize that as a win.

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Wed Jun 06, 2018 6:23 am
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Surlaw The Mai wrote:
I'm not entirely sure any of the films capture this, as most have flimsy themes and messages. This is more of what the TV shows accomplished.
I'm not really sure if I can agree with this, given just how poorly Star Trek 5, Insurrection, The Motion Picture, Star Trek 2009, and Nemesis are comparatively.


You're not wrong, but at least the other movies tried to do something deeper.... Even the bad ones.

ST I: Themes about family, finding one's place in the universe
ST II: Themes about getting older
ST III: Rebirth
ST IV: Killing whales is bad, mmkay?
ST V: Pain being a part of who we are, finding God within
ST VI: Cold War metaphor
ST G: Value of true life over fantasy
ST FC: Destiny
ST I: The needs of the few outweigh the needs of the many
ST N: Nature vs nurture
ST 2009: Destiny
ST ID: Family loyalty
ST B: Unity

Surlaw The Mai wrote:
Also in doing some basic research on this film, Paramount pretty much had to make whatever demands Nimoy requested to bring him back on as Director, and he specifically wanted a film with no space battles and no big major bad guy, and the final draft of the film was penned by everyone's favorite Trek Writer, Nicholas Meyer.


I didn't know Nicholas Meyer was involved. That's cool. I had heard the rest of that, which is a bummer because it seems to me that based on ST4 vs ST5, Shatner understood Star Trek better.

Surlaw The Mai wrote:
2 Points here:

1. Did you consider that you, an educated American might not be the target for this message? Harmful fishing practices are still occurring in various places around the world, and the world back then still looked upon the wisdom of Star Trek as a passive way to deliver important morals.


Kinda. The thing is that back in 1986 movies really were made primarily for American audiences, in terms of revenue. It's different today, of course. And you may be right about the intent being to reach out to those who support those practices, but that just reinforces my point: The movie never tells us WHY whaling is bad. Everybody just agrees that it is. The closest thing we get by way of explanation on that point is Spock calling it illogical. That really isn't a very persuasive argument for people who made their living doing it, or who didn't understand why it's a problem.

Surlaw The Mai wrote:
2. As recently as 1988, Humpback Whales were pretty high on the endangered species list, and today their population is at the level of 'least concern', so if the silly propaganda movie about a Bird of Prey time traveling managed to save one species in real life... I think you have to recognize that as a win.


If it had that effect then yes, I'd agree absolutely that's a win. And maybe it did. Still, my point is that it's a propaganda movie, not a social commentary.

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Wed Jun 06, 2018 8:23 pm
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Actually on the themes of the films I think there are multiple themes for the most part layering over each one.

I was about discovery, about self exploration and coming to terms with where you are.
II was yes about aging to an extent, but coming to terms with that and the use you can serve and of course the cost to pay to save many for the few.
III Well yes very much about rebirth, and ultimately sacrificing your careers for your friend.
IV was about saving a species and ultimately through that the entire Earth, it was about rediscovering who you are and of course Italian Food.
V was about again exploration, and no not quite finding God within yourself but more finding your own path (alright I’ll be honest it was shit I can’t even write that)
VI: How sometimes its best to put aside your hatred for your enemy and instead choose a new path with them to embrace a stronger future for everyone.
VII: Generations was about Family, it was about coming to terms with the time you have and cherishing it for what it is, and about new beginnings.
VIIII: Was about doing what Ahab couldn’t and getting over the fucking Whale your chasing to save yourself and everyone else.
IX: Yes I’d say the fate of the many over the few, as well as again taking time to cherish the little things in life. Oh and Klingon Puberty was gold mate.
X: X was about letting go of that family, letting them move on in their lives knowing they’ll be better for it and watching them grow to be more than they once were.
09: Destiny yes I will agree.
ITD: Revenge gets you no where.
B: Honstly, seemed to retread where Generations went to an extent.


Thu Jun 07, 2018 6:37 am
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arcticfox wrote:
You're not wrong, but at least the other movies tried to do something deeper.... Even the bad ones.

ST I: Themes about family, finding one's place in the universe
ST II: Themes about getting older
ST III: Rebirth
ST IV: Killing whales is bad, mmkay?
ST V: Pain being a part of who we are, finding God within
ST VI: Cold War metaphor
ST G: Value of true life over fantasy
ST FC: Destiny
ST I: The needs of the few outweigh the needs of the many
ST N: Nature vs nurture
ST 2009: Destiny
ST ID: Family loyalty
ST B: Unity


Well, it just seems like we aren't going to agree on themes, which is fine, that's why we are Trek fans and we have logical discussions, otherwise we'd just be at the local Whole Foods punching each other in-front of the non-GMO gluten free pomegranate juice display.

All in all, I think all of the TOS Films taught me that Captain/Admiral Kirk was about the worst role model ever, in his personal and professional life...

The Motion Picture - Admiral Kirk takes command of a ship he knows nothing about and several crew members killed.

The Wrath of Khan - Admiral Kirk takes command of a ship of college age kids and get's several of them killed because he can't be arsed in his old age to even follow the most simple protocols as the cadets remind him of them.

The Search for Spock - Admiral Kirk takes command of a ship in such poor condition on a self serving rescue mission that he not only get's the ship destroyed he get's his son killed, kills a Klingon crew down to the last man and re-sparks an interstellar conflict between the Federation and the Klingon Empire that was JUST at the point of peace talks.

The Voyage Home - Admiral Kirk takes command of a ship he knows nothing about to to travel back in time to steal some whales so they can have a Skype call with a giant space log.

The Final Frontier - Captain Kirk takes command of a ship in such a poor state of function that be botches a basic raid on a compound and has the new Enterprise captured by 1 Vulcan and like 6 guys with guns that shoot rocks.

The Undiscovered Country - Captain Kirk takes command of a ship and is asked to host a peace envoy which he manages to get drunk with on the first night and get the Chancellor of the Klingon High Command killed.

Generations - Captain Kirk takes command of someone elses Enterprise, then has to remind himself not to be an ass and spends the next 70 years in the Nexus reliving the day he met his wife and the day he dumps her to go BACK to Starfleet even though he had promised he wouldn't. Captain Kirk then dies on the bridge... well... he dies UNDER the bridge, but close enough.

arcticfox wrote:
The movie never tells us WHY whaling is bad. Everybody just agrees that it is.


The movie is pretty clear whaling is bad because in the future if a giant space probe shows up and wants to talk to whales, you are screwed if you killed them all.

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4. Bioshock II (PS3)
5. Fallout 3 (PS3)
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7. Dynasty Warriors 6 Empires (PS3)
8. Dynasty Warriors 7 (PS3)
9. Borderlands (PS3)
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11. Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection (PS3)
12. Resident Evil 5 (PS3)
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Thu Jun 07, 2018 7:01 am
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Will Lucky wrote:
Actually on the themes of the films I think there are multiple themes for the most part layering over each one.

I was about discovery, about self exploration and coming to terms with where you are.
II was yes about aging to an extent, but coming to terms with that and the use you can serve and of course the cost to pay to save many for the few.
III Well yes very much about rebirth, and ultimately sacrificing your careers for your friend.
IV was about saving a species and ultimately through that the entire Earth, it was about rediscovering who you are and of course Italian Food.
V was about again exploration, and no not quite finding God within yourself but more finding your own path (alright I’ll be honest it was shit I can’t even write that)
VI: How sometimes its best to put aside your hatred for your enemy and instead choose a new path with them to embrace a stronger future for everyone.
VII: Generations was about Family, it was about coming to terms with the time you have and cherishing it for what it is, and about new beginnings.
VIIII: Was about doing what Ahab couldn’t and getting over the fucking Whale your chasing to save yourself and everyone else.
IX: Yes I’d say the fate of the many over the few, as well as again taking time to cherish the little things in life. Oh and Klingon Puberty was gold mate.
X: X was about letting go of that family, letting them move on in their lives knowing they’ll be better for it and watching them grow to be more than they once were.
09: Destiny yes I will agree.
ITD: Revenge gets you no where.
B: Honstly, seemed to retread where Generations went to an extent.


I feel a series of great discussion threads coming on... :D

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Thu Jun 07, 2018 11:15 pm
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Surlaw The Mai wrote:
Well, it just seems like we aren't going to agree on themes, which is fine, that's why we are Trek fans and we have logical discussions, otherwise we'd just be at the local Whole Foods punching each other in-front of the non-GMO gluten free pomegranate juice display.


Well said. If we all agreed on everything there'd be nothing to discuss.

Surlaw The Mai wrote:
All in all, I think all of the TOS Films taught me that Captain/Admiral Kirk was about the worst role model ever, in his personal and professional life...

The Motion Picture - Admiral Kirk takes command of a ship he knows nothing about and several crew members killed.

The Wrath of Khan - Admiral Kirk takes command of a ship of college age kids and get's several of them killed because he can't be arsed in his old age to even follow the most simple protocols as the cadets remind him of them.

The Search for Spock - Admiral Kirk takes command of a ship in such poor condition on a self serving rescue mission that he not only get's the ship destroyed he get's his son killed, kills a Klingon crew down to the last man and re-sparks an interstellar conflict between the Federation and the Klingon Empire that was JUST at the point of peace talks.

The Voyage Home - Admiral Kirk takes command of a ship he knows nothing about to to travel back in time to steal some whales so they can have a Skype call with a giant space log.

The Final Frontier - Captain Kirk takes command of a ship in such a poor state of function that be botches a basic raid on a compound and has the new Enterprise captured by 1 Vulcan and like 6 guys with guns that shoot rocks.

The Undiscovered Country - Captain Kirk takes command of a ship and is asked to host a peace envoy which he manages to get drunk with on the first night and get the Chancellor of the Klingon High Command killed.

Generations - Captain Kirk takes command of someone elses Enterprise, then has to remind himself not to be an ass and spends the next 70 years in the Nexus reliving the day he met his wife and the day he dumps her to go BACK to Starfleet even though he had promised he wouldn't. Captain Kirk then dies on the bridge... well... he dies UNDER the bridge, but close enough.


I literally laughed out loud. I love it!

Surlaw The Mai wrote:
The movie is pretty clear whaling is bad because in the future if a giant space probe shows up and wants to talk to whales, you are screwed if you killed them all.


Just imagine what's coming looking for dodo birds...

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Thu Jun 07, 2018 11:17 pm
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arcticfox wrote:
Star Trek is at its best when it explores themes and social commentary in a way that's challenging and makes us think about things from a new point of view.


This is off-topic but I have to interject - Can I steal this for my Star Trek Club? This right here sums up all of my feelings for why I like the show, and I can't think of a more eloquent and succinct way to put it.

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Mon Sep 24, 2018 5:57 pm
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Sorry to be gone awhile... yeah go for it.... hopefully you just went ahead already ;)

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Fri Sep 28, 2018 10:49 am
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